Trucolor was a color motion picture process used and owned by Consolidated Film Industries division of Republic Pictures. It was introduced as a replacement for Consolidated's own Magnacolor process.
Republic used Trucolor mostly for its westerns, through the 1940s and early 1950s. The premiere Trucolor release was Out California Way (1946) and the last film photographed in the process was Spoilers of the Forest (1957). With the advent of Eastmancolor and Ansco color films, which gave better results at a cheaper price, Trucolor was abandoned, coincidentally at the same time as Republic's demise.
At the time of its introduction, Trucolor was a two-color subtractive color process. Approximately three years later the capability of the process was expanded to include a three-color release system which utilized DuPont film stock. The DuPont film was later replaced by Eastman Kodak film stock. Thus, in its life span of approximately twelve years, the Trucolor process was in reality three distinct systems by which color release prints were made, all bearing the same screen credit, “Trucolor”.
In its original two-color version, Trucolor was a two-strip (red and green) process based on the earlier work of William Van Doren Kelley's Prizma color process. Trucolor films were shot in bipack, with the two strips of film being sensitized to red and green. Both negatives were processed on duplitized film, much like Trucolor's rival process Cinecolor. Unlike Cinecolor, however, the film was not dyed with a toner but a color coupler, similar to Eastmancolor film. Because of this chemical composition, Trucolor film fades over time, unlike Cinecolor.
Three-color Trucolor was first used in 1949, for making prints of cartoons photographed in the "successive exposure" process, in which each animation cel had been photographed three times, on three sequential frames, behind alternating red, green, and blue filters. Multilayer Du Pont Color Release Positive Film was used as the printing material.
DuPont supplied the stock for Trucolor's three-color process between 1949 and 1953; prints after 1953 were on Eastman color print stock 5382, and at that point, the name "Trucolor" became synonymous as many other trade names for Eastmancolor processing.
Republic Pictures introduced live-action three-color Trucolor with the release of the Judy Canova musical comedy Honeychile in 1951. Kodak Eastmancolor negatives were used for principal photography. DuPont positive stock (type 875) was used to make release prints. This stock had a monopack structure that used synthetic polymer rather than gelatin as a color former.
Though renowned for being used in Roy Rogers and other Westerns, Republic used Trucolor in a variety of films.
The 61-minute live-action feature Bill and Coo (1948) was filmed in Trucolor and received a special Academy Award. John Ford filmed a Korean War documentary in the process, This Is Korea (1951). Republic made an epic version of the battle of the Alamo, The Last Command (1955) where the Mexican uniforms were made in sky blue to look better on the screen. Montana Belle, a Western starring Jane Russell as outlaw Belle Starr was filmed in Trucolor in 1948 by independent producer Howard Welsch for intended release by Republic, but was bought back by RKO, to whom Russell was under contract, and released by them in 1952.
Republic also made a South Seas adventure Fair Wind to Java (1953) that climaxed with the explosion of Krakatoa. Nicholas Ray made notable use of Trucolor for his offbeat 1954 western, Johnny Guitar, which starred Joan Crawford. Trucolor went on location to Europe as William Dieterle filmed the life of Richard Wagner in Magic Fire (1956) and Portugal featured in the potboiler Lisbon (1956) directed by and starring Ray Milland. Republic made a John Ford Americana type film in the process Come Next Spring (1956). However, John Ford refused to film The Quiet Man (1952) in Trucolor despite Republic's head Herbert J. Yates insisting on the process, so Technicolor was used.
In addition to feature films, Republic commissioned Robert Clampett to make one cartoon, It's a Grand Old Nag. Leonard L. Levinson was commissioned to make four animated cartoon travelogues, Sloan Nibley wrote a real travelogue Carnival in Munich, and Lewis Cotlow filmed the feature-length Zanzabuku in Africa.
- Fleet, R., “The Trucolor Process,” American Cinematographer, March, 1948, p. 79.
- American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures (online database). The Republic feature Pawnee was filmed before Spoilers of the Forest but released after.
- Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 109-110 and pp. 148-149.
- Thomas F. Brady, "Hollywood Unhappy", The New York Times, May 27, 1951, p. 77.
- Richard H. Haines, Technicolor Movies: The History of Dye Transfer Printing, McFarland, 2003, p. 57. ISBN 978-0-7864-1809-1.
- Thompson, Frank Alamo Movies Old Mill Books 1991